There is truly no greater pleasure than going to a country and eating the food it’s famous for, especially if you’ve only had the bastardized U.S. version of it. I’ve never been a particular fan of Thai food (I KNOW, I KNOW, please no emails) so when I settled into Chiang Mai, I had no idea what this city had in store for me. What I’ve been blessed with has been a series of meals each more delicious than the last, and the luck to eat them in restaurants so trendy it’s like they’ve been focus-grouped by Instagram influencers. What’s especially awesome about Chiang Mai is that you’re in good hands whether you’re showing out or being your true broke self (or if you want traditional Thai food or something more western). So come, let’s go on a food porn adventure through this amazing city.
IF YOU’RE BALLIN ($$$)
The Coffee Club
Blueberry Crumble Pancakes
Sometimes I dream about these pancakes. Often late at night, when the streets are empty and I know they’re out of reach. Their perfect curves. How they tease me with their impossibly golden brown edges. I imagine what it would be like to taste them again. To have them inside of me. Then I remember that they cost 250 BAHT, the equivalent of 8 US dollars. Frustrated, I toss in my sheets and bemoan late-stage capitalism.
Rustic and Blue
Fish & Chips
I’ve been to London. In fact, my friends and I deliberately sought out fish & chips, foolishly thinking this is where the recipe had been perfected. NO. Rustic and Blue figured out the perfect fish & chips dish. The seabass tossed in a batter seasoned with manna from heaven. The garlic fries crispy on the outside and textured to perfection within. The whole thing sprinkled with the thinnest ribbons of parmesan cheese. My knees are still weak. And while it hurt my wallet at 345 BAHT (about 11 US dollars) it hurt so, so good.
IF YOU’RE BROKE ($)
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Girl, 8 dollars? 11 dollars? These are the coins you’re crying over? YES. YES, I AM. Because in Chiang Mai, you can eat a whole fresh, authentic, and delicious meal for the price of a bus pass in the States. For instance, I ordered these tasty tofu & mushroom pot stickers with a bowl of steamed rice and watched as the woman who took my order proceeded to walk to the back and make each pot sticker by hand. The cost of the entire meal? 59 BAHT, or $1.86. Nope, not a typo. SEE WHY I’M IN MY FEELINGS???
Khao Soy Maesai (this place is so local it doesn’t even have Facebook, so here’s the Google Maps link)
Khao Soi (also spelled khao soy)
Okay, we can’t talk about Thai food without talking about the noodle curry masterpiece that goes by the name of khao soi. This bowl of spicy magic would be the perfect soup to warm you up on a cold night if Chiang Mai had such things. You can have them with egg or rice noodles, and you’ll often get lime, red pepper, onions, and pickled mustard greens with your order to adjust the spiciness to your pain threshold. It often comes with a chicken leg, but I’ve been able to get a seafood or veggie version everywhere I’ve been. Most bowls are topped with crispy fried noodles, and I like to grab my chopsticks, mix the whole thing up, then attack. Pair it with an iced milk tea for a beautiful frosty balance and your wallet will only be lighter by 45 BAHT or $1.42. Thank me later.
It’s kinda insane that this is literally a fraction of the options you have in Chiang Mai. I’m going to stop here because I’m getting hungry and if I don’t, my metaphors are gonna start getting REAL weird. But feel free to DM me for pics, you won’t believe the things I’ve got saved on my camera roll. (Let’s just say I’ve had a mango smoothie bowl that will make you blush.)
What country has surprised you with their cuisine?